Couple Shares Powerful Wedding First Look Among Protesters
While Black Lives Matter protesters filled Philadelphia's streets on Saturday, June 6, one couple set to exchange vows at a local hotel decided they wanted to join the demonstrators outside. All before they even married.
Kerry-Anne and Michael Gordon, both clad in their wedding attire, stood in solidarity with the thousands of participants filling the streets outside of the Logan Hotel in the City of Brotherly Love. As the bride and groom made their way through the crowd, protesters parted the way and encircled the pair in cheers in what appeared to be a very emotional and powerful moment on the iconic Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Since then, the video has been circulated widely, and has even inspired artwork.
"The protesters saw Kerry-Anne and started chanting and congratulating her. They were chanting, 'Black Lives Matter,'" photographer Linda McQueen tells The Knot. "So she decided the ceremony wasn't going to start anytime soon and called Michael over. They decided to do a first look on the spot, right there. She wanted to be part of the protests, she's a physician and her work schedule is very busy, so she decided she wanted to be part of the protests right there. That's how the moment happened."
The now-viral clip was documented by McQueen and her husband, Kalechi Noel, of Luxor Wedding Films, who was playing assistant to his wife that day. In the video, the couple holds hands with their eyes closed, as they raise their fists in the air in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Meanwhile, a big crowd encircles them in support.
"Everything happened organically," McQueen explains. "The protesters started coming right next to them and there was one who had a shirt that read, 'I can't breathe.' So she turned her back to be part of the photo."
"It ended up being a very powerful moment," the bride told ABC News. "Not only are we feeling the movement of the people… but I'm meeting my husband on our wedding day, as a strong black man and a good representative of who we are as people, what our men are like, what our culture is like. It was just a very, very empowering moment for us, considering all of this is happening at one moment in one time."
The couple's wedding, it turns out, was postponed by the coronavirus like many 2020 couples. Ultimately, the pair decided to move ahead with a smaller ceremony in the courtyard of the Logan Hotel, a property located right off a main rotunda street in Philadelphia's Center City. The property has been offering complementary one-hour openings of its venue for 2020 couples to exchange vows in minimonies, with social distancing rules in effect.
The bride, a doctor, was born in Jamaica, while the groom is of Caribbean descent. While witnessing this wedding day moment, they agreed that it was all-the-more "memorable" after seeing the various backgrounds of protesters united in action, speaking out and marching together against injustice. (On May 25, George Floyd died after officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd's neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds over allegedly a counterfeit bill. Footage from the moment has since sparked global outrage, in turn, leading to a wave of protests and activism against racism on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement.)
In his interview Sunday, the groom said the issues—surrounding Floyd's death—have long been concerns for the Black community. "We all see this injustice. We all want to see this needle shift away from the status quo and… That [was what] made this day more memorable in ways," he said. "That's what the entire event out there was about. Of course there was police and National Guard, but it was a peaceful protest. Everyone was so nice. That in itself showed what the movement can be and for us to be a part of that, it's a positive thing."
"I want to say to people of color: 'We matter. Our lives matter. Love matters,'" says McQueen. "'Everything, your life, it matters. If you want to go after something whether it be equality, justice, just do it.'"
"One thing I've learned and I've believed is: 'If you want to do something, just do it,'" Noel agrees. "It seemed like all the cards were against the couple the day of their wedding. That day, we were concerned about interruptions, but everything unraveled the way it did… Now they've gone viral. None of that was planned, none of that was orchestrated. It just happened."